Swallows Galore

A tree swallow perches on a narrow branch in the sun
A tree swallow perches on a narrow branch in the sun

When I first got into photographing birds, I would often walk along the bay trails and wonder what these incredibly fast birds zooming around at full speed close to the ground were. They never seemed to slow down, and never seemed to perch. They always had somewhere important to be.

A violet-green swallow perches on barbed wire
A violet-green swallow perches on barbed wire

I soon learned that these were swallows, and eventually got better views (and photographs) when I did find the odd one perched for a brief few moments. I also learned that there are six swallow species that can be seen through the Bay Area: barn, cliff, tree, violet-green, northern rough-winged, and purple martins. So far I have satisfactory photos of all but the last two.

A cliff swallow hangs from a nest and feeds a hungry chick
A cliff swallow hangs from a nest and feeds a hungry chick

The problem with photographing swallows is that they never seem to slow down. They fly far to quickly to photograph in flight (at least it is beyond my skill level) and they even feed in flight. I rarely saw them perch, and when they did so, it was for very short periods of time.

A barn swallow perches on barbed wire
A barn swallow perches on barbed wire

Over time, I was able to find most of my target species while they were resting. Finding an active colony of cliff swallows helped because the parents returned on a regular basis to feed their babies. I’m sure I’ll get opportunities with my last two local swallow species soon, and may even catch sight of a bank swallow migrating through the area.